The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use.
It has been given the go-ahead by the health regulator MHRA and will become available from next week.
Studies have shown the jab is 95% effective and works in all age groups.
The government has secured 40 million doses of the vaccine, which needs to be refrigerated at -70C (-94F).
Ten million doses are expected in the UK by the end of the year and patients need two each.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the first two hospitals for vaccine roll-out for NHS staff will be in Stockport and Salford.
Royal Liverpool University Hospital trust is another site that will be rolling out the vaccine next week.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, health secretary Matt Hancock said the roll-out is “fantastic news”.
He added: “The MHRA – the fiercely independent regulator – has clinically authorised the vaccine for roll-out.
“The NHS stands ready to make that happen so from early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against COVID-19 here in this country.
“As we know from earlier announcements, this vaccine is effective, the MHRA have approved it as clinically safe and we have a vaccine, so it’s very good news.”
He also announced the news in a tweet, posting: “Help is on the way. The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19. The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
Help is on its way.
The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19.
The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock)
“The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.”
Mr Hancock also told Sky News there would be “three modes of delivery” of the vaccine.
“The first is hospitals themselves, which of course we’ve got facilities like this,” he said.
“50 hospitals across the country are already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s approved, so that can now happen.
“Also vaccination centres, which will be big centres where people can go to get vaccinated. They are being set up now.”
Mr Hancock said the military are involved in the logistics of the vaccine roll-out and 800,000 jabs are being brought from Belgium.
He added that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will be setting out how the COVID vaccine will be prioritised among the population.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use.
“This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”
The UK’s newly-appointed vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: “Major step forward in the fight against COVID19 today.”
An effective vaccine is seen as the main weapon in fighting the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.4 million lives worldwide.
Pfizer and BioNTech reported final trial results on 18 November that showed its vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, with no major safety concerns.
Sky News’ science correspondent Thomas Moore said: “It’s going to be tricky to roll-out but nevertheless this is really good news.
“It’s two doses per person so that’s an awful lot of people who could be vaccinated.
“Because it needs to be stored at -70C (-94F), it’s going to be shipped in dry ice to hospital centres that have these special cryo-freezers.”
By David Aaron
December 02, 2020